The Truth About Cars » Equinox http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 08 Dec 2014 16:28:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Equinox http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Review: 2013 Toyota Venza (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/review-2013-toyota-venza-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/review-2013-toyota-venza-video/#comments Mon, 25 Feb 2013 14:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=477702 Our recent looks at the Ford Edge Ecoboost and GMC Terrain prompted an email from a reader asking us to take a look at the 2013 Toyota Venza with these two American entries in mind. If you have a request or suggestion for a vehicle review, just click the contact link at the top of […]

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Our recent looks at the Ford Edge Ecoboost and GMC Terrain prompted an email from a reader asking us to take a look at the 2013 Toyota Venza with these two American entries in mind. If you have a request or suggestion for a vehicle review, just click the contact link at the top of the page, or find us on Facebook and drop us a note.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The Venza landed as a 2009 model year vehicle with a confusing mission: slot between the 7-seat RAV-4 and the 7-Seat Highlander as a 5-seat mid-sized crossover. The Lexus RX imitating shape of the Venza caused further confusion and the dimensions didn’t help either since the Venza is longer than the Highlander. Of course, that hasn’t stopped Toyota from shifting around 45,000 Venzas a year in America. If you think that number sounds low, you’re right. Ford sold 128,000 Edges and GM pumped out a whopping 316,000 soft-roaders between the Equinox and the Terrain.

Exterior

While many crossovers try to hide passenger car roots with boxy wheel arches truck-inspired grilles, the Venza is more open about its sedan origins. Think of the Venza as a modern Camry wagon. If you want a crossover that looks more butch, opt for the closely related Highlander. Just remember it is no more capable off-road than the Venza since they share engines, transmissions, AWD systems and have identical 8.1-inch ride heights. While the side and 3/4 profiles scream Lexus RX to me, the Venza shares incredibly little with the Lexus, for better or worse.

For 2013 Toyota has given the Venza a mild facelift grafting their corporate three-bar grille to the four-year old profile. Aside from the nose job the changes are fairly mild and boil down to new wheels, light modules, paint colors, and a few additional base features. While not a change to the Venza, the new RAV4 is no longer available in a 7-seat version making the Venza’s position in the lineup easier to understand.

Despite the tweaking, I find the Ford and GM crossovers more visually exciting, especially the GMC Terrain with its mini-truck clothes job. The Ford Edge is blander, but somehow manages a less controversial front bumper than the Venza. The American options are slightly larger but actually less capable off road since they have notably lower ground clearances. Before you flame in the comment section, I’m not discounting the CX-7, Satta Fe or Murano, but this is a somewhat large segment and our reader request asked specifically about a GM/Ford/Toyota shootout. (If we did drop those three into the mix the Santa Fe would have been given my nod in the looks department.)

Interior

The Venza’s interior is starting to show its age more than the competition. With a decidedly asymmetrical design, a dashboard mounted shifter and a somewhat boring gauge cluster, the Venza failed to push many of the right buttons for me aesthetically. Of course style is subjective so I’d like to know your thoughts below. On a functional level, the dashboard layout ranks low on my scale because of the three-display theme where the clock, thermometer, trip computer and climate readout are set high in the dashboard on a small LCD. In addition to this functional setback there is plenty of hard plastic in the cabin leaving the Venza at the back of the pack in terms of haptic bliss. You won’t find the RAV4’s stitched pleather dash bits in the Venza, and strangely enough we didn’t find Toyota’s usual attention to detail either. Our tester’s dashboard had some ill-fitting trim and speaker grills which bugged me all week. Hopefully Toyota will refresh the Venza’s interior soon, although if you have kids that are rough on cars, hard plastic might be what you need, it holds up better in the long run.

For 2013, all Venza models get a power driver’s seat and dual-zone climate control standard. Should you opt for the higher trim levels, Toyota will toss in a power passenger throne as well. Regardless of your trim level and fabric choice, the Venza’s seats aren’t as comfortable on long car trips as the competition. Nobody in this segment provides a huge range of motion or much lateral bolstering in their front seats but the Venza’s seemed particularly flat and thin. With any vehicle purchase, try to get a long test drive or extended seat time at the dealer lot. Spend time in the seats to decide which vehicle is better at keeping your sciatica at bay.

The modern crossover is the spiritual successor to the station wagon and minivan. This shows in the back with thoughtful touches like reclining seat backs, available rear seat entertainment systems that have dual independent DVD players, fairly good visibility and seat bottom cushions that are fairly low to the floor. The low seat cushions mean that adults on long car trips may find their legs need a bit more support but kids will be happier with the seating position.

All Venzas swallow 36 cubic feet of IKEA purchases, notably larger than the American competition despite the fact that the Ford an GM CUVs are longer than the Venza. While the rear seats fold completely flat, the front passenger seat doesn’t fold making it harder to get long and bulky items inside. An important item overlooked by some CUV reviews is the payload capacity. The Venza’s 825lbs rating is adequate for four American-sized guys and a French poodle, while the Terrain’s 1,146lb payload could accommodate the same four dudes and 60 bricks from Home Depot. Not that either shopper is likely to encounter the latter situation.

Infotainment

Venzas start out with Toyota’s easy-to-use “Display Audio” system which features a 6.1-inch touchscreen LCD, USD/iDevice integration and Bluetooth streaming and speakerphone. The base system is easy to use and allows full access of your music device via the on-screen commands. Optional on base Venza models and standard on XLE and Limited is Toyota’s Entune software. Entune is analogous to Ford’s SYNC product, something we’ve seen for ages allowing the same level of voice command interaction with your music device and other aspects of the audio system. Entune’s voice responses are more polished than Ford’s thanks to its more recent design. Response times are snappy and the system’s accuracy was equal to the other systems on the market. Entune also allows smartphone app integration with the system so you can use the radio interface to control your Pandora streaming, search Bing for destinations and make reservations via Open Table. Originally compatible only with iOS devices, the system is now fully functional with most current Android devices.

Base and XLE buyers also have the option of adding on Toyota’s basic navigation software which acts like an “app” on the system and uses your smartphone for traffic and weather data rather than a satellite subscription service. The downside? You can’t access these services without a smartphone, so if you haven’t joined the 21st century and are still using a Motorola StarTac, you won’t be able Bing while you roll.  The audio quality from the base speaker package is merely average, if you care about your tunes XLE models can be had with the  $1,850 premium package which adds 13 JBL speakers (including a subwoofer) and a power moonroof.

Venza Limited models come standard with the up-level JBL speakers but strangely use an entirely different 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The 7-inch system should be familiar with any late model Toyota or Lexus owners as this is essentially the same software they have used for some time. The larger system uses a hard drive for navigation data and has a larger pre-programmed database built in. Toyota has updated this system to allow the same Entune app integration and music device voice control as the lower-end unit, but there’s a catch. If you want traffic data to show on this navigation screen you’ll need an XM Nav Traffic subscription since it won’t pull the data via your smartphone.

Compared to MyFord Touch, the Venza’s systems all have smaller touchscreens and lack the visual polish of Ford’s system. Entune doesn’t offer Ford’s easy-to-use voice text messaging assistant, the dual LCDs in the gauge cluster or the ability to voice command your climate control. In Toyota’s defense, Entune didn’t crash or freeze during our week (unlike MyFord Touch). Does that make Ford the winner here? No, that goes to GM with their new touchscreen infotainment system that beats both systems in terms of response, graphics and the smoothness of the voice command interactions.

Drivetrain

While the competition is toying with boosted four cylinder engines, Toyota sticks with a more traditional four/six cylinder lineup for the Venza. The base engine in all trims is the same 2.7L four-cylinder engine as the Highlander and Sienna. Cranking out 181HP and 182lb-ft of torque the four cylinder scores 20MPG City, 26 Highway and 23MPG combined in FWD form and 20/26/22 when equipped with Toyota’s AWD system.

Should you need more shove, Toyota offers their ubiquitous 3.5L V6 for $1,820. This isn’t Toyota’s direct-injection six, but it does get dual variable valve timing to churn out 268HP at 6,200RPM and 248lb-ft of twist at 4,700RPM. Like the 2.7L engine the V6 is mated to Toyota’s 6-speed automatic transaxle. The extra shove may cost you more initially but it won’t cost you much at the pump with the FWD V6 having an identical highway mileage score and dropping only one MPG in the city. Add AWD and the numbers drop to 18/25/21 according to the EPA.

If you live in the snow belt, the optional AWD will set you back $1,450 with either engine. The system worked well on gravel roads and slick, leaf-covered back country lanes, but is decidedly slip-and-grip in feel. From a standstill in the Ford and GM crossovers, planting your foot on the throttle is a drama-free experience as the AWD system acts immediately preventing wheel spin in most circumstances. The Venza on the other hand one-wheel-peels for a short while before the system sends power to the back. While this arrangement is slightly less refined, it is unlikely to cause much of a problem en route to the ski resort.

Let’s be honest, nobody buys crossovers or SUVs for their on-road prowess. Of course that puts the crossover in something of a pickle since, unlike an SUV, they aren’t designed for off road use either. Rather the modern crossover is trying to be everything to everyone, the perfect family hauler, cargo schlepper, weekend ski shuttle,  and commuter car all while trying desperately to look like anything other than a minivan or station wagon. The result with the Venza is a fairly tall, softly spring crossover with a fuel efficient V6 engine and optional AWD. While far from sloppy out on the back roads, the Venza tips, dives and rolls more than my sedan-biased preferences care for. Compared to the GMC Terrain, the Venza feels far less composed and despite being smaller than the GMC, it feels much larger on the road. GM’s 3.6L direct-injection V6 delivers 301HP and 272lb-ft of torque and the difference is noticeable on the road and at the pump with V6 AWD Terrain only serving up 16/23MPG. Meanwhile the Edge’s optional 3.5L V6 lands in the middle in terms of power and economy.

Our V6 AWD Limited tester rang in a $41,904 which is a few hundred more than a comparably equipped Ford Edge but $3,639 more than a comparably equipped GMC Terrain while the Equinox is a bit cheaper still. This placed my final ranking as follows: GMC Terrain, Ford Edge, Chevrolet Equinox and lastly the Toyota Venza. While I wouldn’t rank the Venza last in the entire segment, its age is starting to show and without some attention from Toyota to the interior quality and feel issues, the Venza will continue to sell largely on its reputation for reliable and dependable service.

 

 Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.2 Seconds

0-60: 6.3 Seconds

 1/4 Mile: 14.9 Seconds at 93 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 21.5MPG over 658 Miles

2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Exterior, Front, 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Center Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Rear Seat Entertainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Front Seats and Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Rear Seats Folded, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Center Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Engine, 3.5L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Engine, 3.5L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Engine, 3.5L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Dash Display, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Rental Car Review: 2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/rental-car-review-2012-chevrolet-captiva-sport/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/rental-car-review-2012-chevrolet-captiva-sport/#comments Sat, 14 Jul 2012 13:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=451846   If you’re shopping for a compact American crossover, Chevy’s Equinox is likely on your list. If however you’re looking to rent a small crossover, the Chevrolet Captiva Sport is probably what you’ll get for $29.95 a day from Hertz. While you’re bound to see them on the streets, you can’t buy them new unless […]

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If you’re shopping for a compact American crossover, Chevy’s Equinox is likely on your list. If however you’re looking to rent a small crossover, the Chevrolet Captiva Sport is probably what you’ll get for $29.95 a day from Hertz. While you’re bound to see them on the streets, you can’t buy them new unless you’re a fleet customer. That’s because the Captiva is designed to do two things: keep fleet sales of GM’s other CUVs low and continue to amortize the cost of Americanizing the Opel Antara. Yep, that’s right, under the bow tie, the Captiva Sport is none-other than the 2008-2010 Saturn VUE, aka the Opel Antata, Holden Captiva and Dawewoo Winstorm MaXX. We spent a week in a Hertz rental to find out if Chevy’s rental soft-roader should be on your used CUV shopping list.

Click here to view the embedded video.

 Exterior

The exterior of the Captiva is simple, clean, and completely unremarkable. Saturn called the design theme “Opel look share” which roughly translates to “Americanized Opel built-in Mexico.” Because the Captiva was “created” for fleet duty the plain-Jane looks are completely appropriate (and the slab-sides make covering the CUV with vinyl wraps or magnetic signs an easy process.) On the downside, the Captiva looks nothing like the rest of the Chevrolet product lineup. Of course, this probably isn’t a bad idea since fleet use tends to create high depreciation. Despite the rental-fleet target demographic, alloy wheels and side curtain airbags are standard on all Captiva models. If only Ford could have figure this out and kept the Panther afloat for fleet duty (and Sajeev.)

Interior

The Captiva’s interior is a study in grey plastic, but the look is both simple and tasteful. Cabin materials are higher than you might expect with plenty of soft touch plastics. Durability is always an issue with rentals. Our tester has over 18,000 miles on it and looked like a herd of feral animals had migrated in one window and out the other, however a pre-photo shoot wipe-down revealed that the interior plastics took the beating in stride, showing little wear, but questionable fit and finish. Most Captivas for rent (and therefore available on the used market) have the “2LS” package which includes a power driver’s seat, lumbar support, leather-wrapped steering wheel, single-zone climate control, fog lights and Bluetooth phone integration. The standard cloth seats are firm and supportive up front, but fairly hard and low to the ground in the rear. Luggage space in the Captiva rings in at 29 cubic feet behind the rear seats, and 54 cubes with the rear seats folded. This is higher than the $19.95-a-day Malibu, but about 30% less than the CR-V and RAV4.

Infotainment

Unlike most GM fleet vehicles, the Captiva can’t be stripped to the bone for volume buyers. This means you can expect all rental and off-rental Captivas out there to have side-curtain airbags, air conditioning, cruise control and a silver-tone version of GM’s corporate AM/FM/CD/MP3/iPod/USB head unit. While GM does offer the option to remove OnStar and XM Satellite Radio from the Captiva, doing so is an “option” that only reduces the sticker by $85 so it doesn’t seem common. GM has had a long history of phone integration since OnStar came on the scene in 1995 and this translates into excellent Bluetooth phone call quality. The head unit’s iDevice and USB integration worked well with my iPod nano, iPhone 4S and iPad 3 as well as a variety of USB flash drives but navigating a large collection of songs is tedious on the small display.

Drivetrain

Under the short hood of the Captiva lurks “some engine.” As a fleet or rental car, this section is fairly unimportant and could understandably skipped if GM hadn’t made some important improvements. Back in 2008 the VUE had less-than-refined engine and transmission choices. Rather than maintaining the status quo, GM dropped in a new 2.4L direct-injection four-cylinder engine good for 182HP and 172lb-ft of torque and bolted it to a 6-speed automatic. The power boost over the old four is welcome, but the transmission is the bigger change. The GM/Ford developed 6-speed delivers smooth shifts with surprisingly little hunting and most importantly: improved fuel economy. There is still a V6 option, but the old 3.6L engine has been ditched in favor of a more powerful 3.0L direct injection V6 putting out 264HP and 222lb-ft. As with the old Saturn VUE, AWD can only be added with the V6.

Drive

The Captiva’s Opel roots are obvious out on the road and I’m not talking about the odd-looking steering wheel stalks. The Captiva handles twisty roads acceptably with a well controlled chassis, average steering feedback and a surprisingly quiet ride. Stabbing the throttle in the four-cylinder model produced very little torque steer despite the respectable 182HP on tap.

Unlike many of GM’s four-cylinder engines, the 2.4L direct injection engine is surprisingly quiet, smooth and thankfully free of the diesel-like clatter from BMW and Ford’s turbo fours. This level of engine refinement is important, because 182HP pitted against 3,900lbs means the engine spends plenty of time at higher RPMs.

The EPA rates the four-cylinder Captiva at 20/28MPG (city/highway), an improvement of 1/6MPG over the Saturn VUE thanks to the extra gears and the DI treatment. The FWD V6 Captiva matches the V6 FWD VUE at 17/24MPG despite the increase in power while the AWD Captiva takes a 1MPG hit on the highway. The 6-speed automatic manages to make the 400lb heavier Captiva competitive with the 4-speed RAV4 and only 3MPG behind the 5-speed CR-V.

GM’s fleet website prices the Captiva Sport between $23,435 and $32,860 depending on your trim and options. Given that GM fleet purchases typically see rebates from $500 to $3,000 depending on the number of vehicles purchased, the true starting cost is lower. A quick used car search revealed nearly a hundred used 2012 Captivas within 500 miles of my location compared with four 2012 RAV4s, and 15 2012 CR-Vs. This comparative plenty helps translate to the advertised $18,000 prices for low mileage (under 12,000 miles) base models and $26,000 for fully loaded AWD Captivas with leather. Adjusting for content, a used RAV4 has a resale value some $2,000-$3,000 higher and a quick conversation with the Hertz sales guy proved there was plenty of room to negotiate on the Chevy. Since late-model used car purchases are all about the bang-for-the-buck, if you’re shopping for a bargain used crossover, the 2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport should be on your short list.

 

Neither Chevrolet nor Hertz provided anything for this review. Our total bill was $360 after tax and insurance for a 5-day rental.

Specifications as tested

0-60: 9.5 Seconds (2.4L FWD)

Average Fuel Economy: 20.1 MPG over 623 miles

 

2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Chevrolet Ignores A Captiva Audience; Cadillac Gets SRXy http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/chevrolet-ignores-a-captiva-audience-cadillac-gets-srxy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/chevrolet-ignores-a-captiva-audience-cadillac-gets-srxy/#comments Mon, 14 May 2012 16:03:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=440459 “On a clear day,” John Z once famously wrote, “you can see General Motors.” The day has yet to come, however, when the works of GM will be made plain to the mortal man. Consider, if you will, the bizarre story of the “Theta” platform in the United States. It’s a huge success; the Equinox […]

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“On a clear day,” John Z once famously wrote, “you can see General Motors.” The day has yet to come, however, when the works of GM will be made plain to the mortal man. Consider, if you will, the bizarre story of the “Theta” platform in the United States. It’s a huge success; the Equinox and Cadillac SRX (which, we are assumed, is totes different from the Equinox, but we will will discuss that contention below) combined for about a quarter-million sales in 2011. It’s a perfect example of the way GM is supposed to work nowadays: there are two platform variants with very little visual similarity combining to provide high volume in one model and high profit in another. Theta is NAFTA-friendly, with the cheapie being made in Ontario and the luxury model in Mexico. The two models are generally well-reviewed. The obscurity, stupidity, and thrown-darts decision-making which used to characterize the General are nowhere to be seen. What’s to criticize, even here at TTAC, where we typically cast a jaundiced eye on the RenCen fire drill?

Well, there is the minor issue of a third Theta, which is as perfect an example of GM’s undiminished ability to screw things up as the other Thetas are of the company’s ability to get things right.

What is the Theta platform anyway? The more one reads about it, the less clear things become. It was engineered by Daewoo and badge-engineered by Opel — or is it the other way ’round? How much of a difference is there between Theta, which underpinned the original Vue and Equinox, and Theta II, which is the current Equinox, and Theta Premium, which is the basis of the SRX? Where did the second-generation Saturn Vue fit into all of this?

The Vue-2 was supposedly developed by Opel to be the Opel Antara, after which it was brought to the United States with as few changes as possible. It predated the SRX but GM sources claim there are significant differences between it and the SRX. Take a look at these two shots and tell me you can’t just see the common bones. You don’t need to be Sajeev Mehta to recognize “hard points” under the skin on this pair:

Supposedly the major difference between the Vue and the SRX was the “premium wheelbase” of the latter. The new Equinox, however, has an even longer wheelbase. Who’s premium now?

In its first and only full year on sale at Saturn dealerships, the Vue-2 knocked out 86,000 units or thereabouts. That’s not small volume, and it would be reasonable to assume that GM would like to hold on to some of that volume. It’s also reasonable to assume that one years’ worth of Vue sales didn’t pay the bills on bringing that vehicle. What to do?

Here’s what they did: the Vue returned for 2012 as the “Chevrolet Captiva Sport”. You’ve probably seen a few of them prowling around. Don’t confuse this with the Chevrolet Captiva sold elsewhere in the world, which is a Daewoo Theta aimed at, and assembled in, developing markets. This is just a re-animated Saturn Vue. They look exactly like Saturn Vues, with the exception of Chevrolet badging. The few reviews and/or news stories I have seen about the 2012 “Captiva Sport” have a surprising number of comments from 2008 Vue owners who would like to buy another one.

Unless their last names are “Avis” or “Budget”, however, they won’t have any luck. The Captiva is a fleet-only model designed to keep the Mexican SRX/Captiva plant humming. If you reserve an “SUV” from a GM-affiliated rental company, odds are you will be receiving a Captiva.

What’s good about this idea? Well, it keeps Mexico working, which is important to GM. It also keeps Equinoxes out of fleets, which is good because four-cylinder Equinoxes have been thin on the ground at dealers for some time now. When my brother went to buy his Equinox last year, he had to do some serious looking around. V-6 models and unpopular option combos were about all you could get without waiting.

What’s bad about this idea? Once again, GM is selling an old vehicle through fleets. This doesn’t help the brand’s image, and it ensures that a lot of people have their first “GM experience” in an obsolete car. The Captiva is five years old and hasn’t been revamped even slightly.

Since the Captiva isn’t sold in dealers, even if people do enjoy a Captiva rental, they can’t convert it into Chevrolet ownership. Instead, they will be shown an Equinox, which isn’t really the same vehicle, doesn’t drive the same, and isn’t priced to the same value standard as the outgoing Vue. The same is true for those Vue owners who would like to get something similar. It’s Equinox or nothing for these buyers, who are then forced to watch a parade of Captivas leaving the airport every afternoon.

What will the resale value of ex-fleet Captivas be? Will they sit next to Equinoxes at used-car lots? Will parts be widely available? Will GMAC finance them at attractive rates? What will it cost GM in the long run to keep Mexico humming at full chat?

Short-term thinking at the expense of long-term benefit is, of course, the truest hallmark of GM. It’s outlasted the soft-square seatbelt buckles, the Rallye steel wheels, and the formal roofline. Nothing says “GM” like chasing today’s dollar. It’s tempting, and depressing, to think that it will ever be so.

In the meantime, TTACers on the lookout for a nice, solid pre-owned SUV might want to check out the Captiva when it appears at the auctions. It’s not as “Premium” as an SRX, and it’s not as, um, “2” as an Equinox, but it will be dirt-cheap and rather satisfying for the price. In fact, from a certain point of VUE, it might even be CAPTIVAting. Chuckle.

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New or Used: Being a Parent…to your Parent http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/new-or-used-being-a-parent-to-your-parent/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/new-or-used-being-a-parent-to-your-parent/#comments Fri, 30 Dec 2011 16:14:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=423593   TTAC Commentator Jimal writes: Sajeev and Steve, I have one of those quandaries that most adults will go through sooner or later in life and I figured I would tap into you and the B&B for suggestions. My father passed away recently after a long illness and I’m helping my mother with settling his […]

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TTAC Commentator Jimal writes:

Sajeev and Steve,

I have one of those quandaries that most adults will go through sooner or later in life and I figured I would tap into you and the B&B for suggestions. My father passed away recently after a long illness and I’m helping my mother with settling his estate; cleaning up finances, etc. Among the things my father left behind were his 2005 Buick LeSabre, which my mother hates, and her cherished 1996 4-door Chevy Blazer.

They bought the Blazer new and 14 years and 170k miles later it owes my mom nothing. The problem is it is a ticking time bomb. My mother realizes this and realizes that they don’t quite make SUVs like that Blazer anymore. Our (my) plan is to sell the Blazer on the front lawn and either trade in the Buick or put it on the lawn for some down payment money for something.

My first question is what CUV built today would be the best replacement for my mother’s beloved Blazer? Because my father was a GM retiree, my mother is eligible for the GM Family First discount and the Chevy Equinox is high on my list, although depending on how much the bankruptcy screwed my mother (my dad was salaried and not protected during the C11 like the UAW members were) we may or may not want to support the General going forward. I’ve also looked at the Tiguan, the Journey and the Flex. She prefers American nameplates; the VW is my idea. I don’t know that anything Asian will fly, otherwise a CX-7 would be on the short list.

My second question is about the wisdom of leasing in this particular situation. My mother takes care of her vehicles (hello? 170k Blazer) and she’s not going to be driving long distances. To me the advantages of having a new vehicle before the old one is out of warranty outweigh the equity issues. I’m finding the lease to be a hard sell for my mother because my father had a bad experience with it on the Olds Achieva the Blazer replaced.

Steve Answers:

Older folks usually prefer to buy a familiar product. The less they care about the product, the more this usually rings true.

My mom is a prime example. She has owned a Camry for 10 years and now wants a new vehicle. My brother said ‘Let’s have her go see some Volvos.’ Well, she didn’t like any of them.

Then I said, “Well, maybe she would be happier in a Toyota Matrix. The seats a bit higher so that will help her with getting in and out of the vehicle. Plus it’s an easier car to drive.” My mom tried the Matrix and hated it too.

Finally, my mom drives the new Camry. She loves it. Why? Because everything is already familiar to her. Plus it now has a rear camera, navigation, and 10 airbags. She likes all of those things. To be frank though, she would still buy the new Camry even if it was still the exact same vehicle she drives now.

Go buy her an Equinox. Sell the other two vehicles for cash and use the family discount to get her a vehicle she can enjoy for the long haul.

Sajeev Answers:

The short answer is to stick with American or Japanese nameplates for a long term owner like your Mom. Buying a VW for this length of time is not worth it, unless you want to be one of the unwitting souls who tells the world the latest crop German vehicles have finally overcome a decade of being a below average value proposition! I wouldn’t want to be the person holding their breath for that.

German cars are for leasing only…and I don’t see your mother wanting or needing that. Buy, don’t lease. Buy American, it’s important to her. The Equinox, Traverse, Flex and Edge are great. Supposedly the new Journey is good value and a quality design, I haven’t driven it yet to know for sure. You need some quality time with Mom doing the Test Drive thing, make it a fun outing with a nice lunch too.

Like Steve said, this is a GM family and she likes GM products. Nothing wrong with that. Honestly I would put her in a Buick Enclave: the size is a bit much, but the luxury and style might be a great choice. There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself to something nice in circumstances like these. And how often do we get to say that around here?

Seriously, tell her she’s worth a Buick Enclave. As long as she likes sitting in it, enjoys the road test, etc. make it happen for her.

EDIT: on second thought, why not a new Caddy SRX? It’s smaller than the Enclave (which could be a good thing for her), and it’s a friggin Caddy.  Get her an SRX!

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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Review: 2010 Chevrolet Equinox http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/12/review-2010-chevrolet-equinox/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/12/review-2010-chevrolet-equinox/#comments Mon, 14 Dec 2009 15:32:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=339047 When buying a car, it can matter a great deal which boxes you do check. And, sometimes, which ones you don’t. Comparisons between the GMC Terrain tested last month and a Chevrolet Equinox driven recently unearthed one do, and one don’t. The Equinox and Terrain are essentially the same vehicle aside from sheetmetal. But the […]

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An equinox for the solstice?

When buying a car, it can matter a great deal which boxes you do check. And, sometimes, which ones you don’t. Comparisons between the GMC Terrain tested last month and a Chevrolet Equinox driven recently unearthed one do, and one don’t.

equinox1The Equinox and Terrain are essentially the same vehicle aside from sheetmetal. But the sheetmetal differs so greatly that “rebadge” is not appropriate. Though the Terrain’s chunky exterior has fans, you’d never know it from the comments at TTAC. The Equinox’s much more conventional exterior, in contrast, shouldn’t offend anyone. Though not striking, the second-generation Equinox is blandly attractive, if anything more so than any of its primary competitors. No one does a double take when a Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester, or Volkswagen Tiguan crosses their path. The droopy headlights of which Chrysler and VW have been so fond lately make an unfortunate appearance on the Equinox as well, but this minor design faux pas pales next to the noses that various Japanese companies has been cursing their cars with lately.

The tested GMC Terrain’s black cloth had a bit much of a work truck vibe. The Chevrolet Equinox had the optional black and brown leather (also available in the GMC), and it makes for a much warmer, more luxurious, and altogether more attractive interior. Both models share a stylish, well-organized center stack complete with ambient lighting, red in the Terrain, blue in the Equinox. The Chevy’s blue is easier on the eyes. Most of the interior plastics are hard, and some appear lower rent than others, but this is typical of the price point. Overall, this is the segment’s best interior.

Like the Terrain, the Equinox combines the width of a compact crossover with the wheelbase and length of a midsize. Inside, this translates to modest shoulder room and exceptional legroom. Seats front and rear are moderately firm and comfortably contoured, and the rear cushion is high enough off the floor to provide adults with thigh support. Ironically, the distantly related Cadillac SRX pairs a larger number of rear seat amenities—rear vents with automatic controls, seat heaters—with a much more cramped, lower, and less comfortable rear seat. equinox

The Equinox’s cabin isn’t broad but, as in many current GM vehicles, the instrument panel runs high and deep between massive A-pillars. “Bigger is better” thinking persists within General Motors, and especially once underway the Equinox feels larger than it is, and it already is a half-size larger than most competitors. This probably attracts more people than it turns off, even if fewer people are seeking to “live large” these days.

The usual price of this large feel: anyone hoping for agile handling won’t find it. The Equinox’s handling is accurate and secure, with nicely weighted steering, good body control, and modest body lean. But agile or sporty it is not. GM leaves any semblance of that for the imports. The Equinox’s moderately firm suspension absorbs most bumps well without any float, but from time to time transmits enough of the impact that you know…you’re in an crossover and not a car. Noise levels are low, making it all too easy to go faster than you intend.

The first-gen Equinox was available with a 185-horsepower 3.4-liter OHV V6 and a 264-horsepower 3.6-liter DOHC V6. The new uplevel engine, a direct-injected 3.0-liter V6, on paper as powerful as the old 3.6, was the largest source of disappointment in the tested GMC Terrain. Too little midrange power to feel energetic, and too vocal with each often-needed downshift, and no more economical than a direct-injected 3.6 would have been.

Since the 3.0-liter V6 was so underwhelming, the new base engine, a 182-horsepower direct-injected 2.4-liter DOHC oughtn’t have a shot at motivating the front-wheel-drive Equinox’s 3,800 pounds. And yet, defying all logic, perhaps even physics itself, the four feels considerably better than the V6 in typical driving. Partly it’s a matter of also sounding better than the V6. Or at least sounding less. The six-speed automatic must downshift at least as much with the four, but when it does so the four draws much less attention to itself. After decades of uncouth fours, GM has finally managed to develop one that puts the optional V6 to shame. Didn’t see this one coming.

equinox24Physics cannot really be defeated, so the 2.4-power Equinox isn’t quick. It just feels acceptable and appropriate when driving the way non-enthusiasts drive. Add all-wheel-drive, a full load, some hills, or a combination of the above, and maybe not. For these conditions and those who want both refinement and quick acceleration, let’s hope GM tosses the 3.0 in favor of a 3.6 sooner rather than later.

Ads for the Equinox have tended to focus on the four’s EPA fuel economy ratings of 22/32. In the real world, the Equinox can top 30 in straight highway driving, but mid-twenties tends to be typical with mixed driving.

After sampling the V6 with the cloth trim and the four with the leather, the latter combination is clearly the way to go—at least until GM sees fit to offer a suitable uplevel engine. It seems odd to pair uplevel features like leather with a four-cylinder engine in a nearly two-ton vehicle, which might be why such a combination has rarely been offered in the past in the U.S. But in this case the combination somehow—surprisingly—works. The new Equinox isn’t great in any area aside from rear seat legroom. But, out in the real world driving like compact crossover owners typically drive, the whole impresses more than the sum of its parts. If the reliability stats are solid—TrueDelta should have some in February—the Chevrolet Equinox will be a good vehicle to recommend to people who would otherwise buy a CR-V, RAV4, or Forester with the base engine. They’ll then find that the Equinox is a rarity for GM: a model dealers can’t seem to keep on the lot.

[Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, a provider of automotive quality and reliability data]

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Review: GMC Terrain http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/review-gmc-terrain/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/review-gmc-terrain/#comments Mon, 16 Nov 2009 15:15:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=335637 Many people have questioned why General Motors needs so many brands. Why have both Chevrolet and GMC selling essentially the same vehicles? With the new GMC Terrain, we might just have an answer. Or not. The GMC Terrain essentially replaces the Pontiac Torrent in GM’s burgeoning Crossover linuep. Where the Torrent was a rebadge of […]

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gmcterrain

Many people have questioned why General Motors needs so many brands. Why have both Chevrolet and GMC selling essentially the same vehicles? With the new GMC Terrain, we might just have an answer. Or not.

2010 GMC Terrain SLTThe GMC Terrain essentially replaces the Pontiac Torrent in GM’s burgeoning Crossover linuep. Where the Torrent was a rebadge of the first-generation Chevrolet Equinox, the Terrain shares everything under the skin with the second-generation Equinox. And yet it’s not a rebadge. The Equinox is blandly attractive, with a moderately aero shape that could have issued forth from the design studio of a number of manufacturers.

The Terrain, in contrast, is all bulky angles, battering-ram grille, and bulging fender flares. No one will mistake it for an Equinox, and it’s not attractive to my eyes. But for anyone who (still) desires the look of a Hummer, but with the mechanicals, packaging, and fuel economy of a car-like crossover, the Terrain is (with the partial exception of Mitsubishi’s failed Endeavor—155 units in October) the only current option.

With the interiors, GM has sprung for different IP fascias and door panels, but the payoff is considerably less than with the exteriors. The lines differ—for example, the Chevrolet’s outer air vents appear to be swapped left to right for the GMC—but the interiors do not feel any different as a result. Side by side comparison is necessary to note the differences.

In either case, the interior is a definite step up from that in the first-gen Equinox. The center stack—shared between the two models—is especially stylish, with its knobs and buttons arranged and shaped so you can tell them apart and find the one you’re looking for (memo to Honda). Vertical air vents flanking the center stack lent flair to the interior of the new Cadillac CTS, and they do the same here. Most of the interior plastics are hard, and some appear lower-rent than others, but this is typical of the price point. You weren’t actually expecting a well-finished cargo area, were you?

Red stitching on the door panels and seats and numerous faux aluminum trim bits nearly save the black cloth interior from a work truck ambience. Those seeking a less somber but higher maintenance interior should opt for the light grey cloth, which brings with it high contrast gray/black interior panels. Want some actual warmth, even luxury? Then spend the extra bucks for the SLT with the brown leather.

Thanks to the blocky exterior styling, the Terrain appears larger than the Equinox, even though the Chevrolet is actually a couple of inches longer. Both combine the width of a compact 2010 GMC Terrain SLTcrossover with the wheelbase and length of a midsize. This translates to the interior dimensions. Even exceptionally tall adults will feel comfortable in the rear seat, with a high cushion and abundant legroom–unless there are three of them. Seats front and rear are moderately firm and nicely contoured.

The driving position is largish SUV. While the cabin isn’t broad, you sit higher than in most compact crossovers and the instrument panel runs high and deep between massive A-pillars. The storage bin atop the IP cannot be reached without leaning far forward, and the base of the windshield might be in the next time zone. As a result, the Terrain doesn’t only look larger than it is. As with many GM vehicles, once underway it also feels larger than it is. Some people might consider this a good thing. GM certainly always has. Bigger is better, right?

Not necessarily. Anyone hoping for agile handling (you can always hope, right?) won’t find it. The Terrain’s handling is accurate and secure, with nicely weighted steering, good body control, and modest body lean. But agile or sporty it is not. GM leaves that for the imports.

The Terrain’s moderately firm suspension absorbs bumps well without any float, but transmits enough of the impact that you know you’re not in a luxury vehicle. Wind noise is low, tire noise not quite so low.

Then there’s engine noise. GM has convinced itself that engines with similar power ratings are interchangeable. So last year’s base engine, a 3.4-liter V6 good for 185 horsepower, has been replaced by a 2.4-liter four good for 182. Just three fewer horses, but can revs substitute for the lost liter? Can 2.4 liters move two tons?

That will have to be answered in a later review. The test vehicle had the optional V6. Though only 3.0 liters, thanks to direct injection it produces the same 264 horsepower as last year’s 3.6. Are you old enough to recall when Honda wowed the enthusiast world by getting 270 horsepower out of three liters in the Acura NSX? Well, now GM is squeezing nearly as much power out of a 3.0, on regular gas and without titanium internals.

Problem is, engines that peak at 6,950 rpm make more sense in sports cars than truckish crossovers. The 3.0 moves the Terrain fairly well at full throttle, if not as well as the torquier 3.6 moved last year’s lighter Equinox, but the amount and quality of the resulting engine noise suggests that you’re doing something you really should not be. Even during regular cruising the six-speed transmission must drop down a cog or three to handle barely-there hills or the slightest demand for acceleration. The engine broadcasts every such downshift with a dramatic increase in induction and exhaust drone, perhaps so you’ll know it’s doing its bestest. Not a good fit for the Terrain’s brawny exterior.

2010 GMC Terrain 3.0L Direct Injection V6Nor is the all-wheel-drive system. It should serve to get the Terrain out of the subdivision before the plow comes through, and does banish torque steer (which this less-than-torquey V6 nevertheless achieves in front-drive applications). But, without a low-range, skid plates, or any other non-aesthetic pretense towards off-roadability, the Terrain isn’t traversing any wild terrain. Beneath the skin, it’s just another tall car pretending to be an SUV, only with more pretense. The trail is conceded to the less aggressively styled, more compact Jeep Patriot. The Terrain is a superior Hummer H3 considering how most H3s are actually used.

The point of the 3.0, one might assume, is efficiency. And when you assume…how about we check the numbers? Well, what do you know: in every vehicle in which both the 3.0 and the related 3.6 are offered the 3.6 gets the same—or better—EPA ratings. The 3.0 might have a fuel economy advantage over the 3.6 in a 3,500 pound (or lower) vehicle. But GM has yet to so deploy it, and perhaps never will, instead using a turbo four in such applications. In the 4,188-pound AWD GMC Terrain, as in the similarly hefty Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac CTS, and Cadillac SRX, the 3.0 simply makes no sense. Use this new engine in something much less massive, or kill it. Perhaps the 3.6 will at least find its way into a future Denali variant?

As it is, the GMC Terrain looks big, feels bigger, but has been deprived of an engine or drivetrain that can cash the checks the tough guy exterior writes. Rear seat comfort (for two adults) and legroom are exceptional, and the interior can be stylish as long as the black cloth isn’t selected. The ride and handling are good without being luxurious or sporty.

All in all, a good fit for what the typical two-row crossover buyer on a budget is seeking—except for the styling. All of the other plusses and minuses are shared by the Equinox, so your typical buyer will gravitate to the prettier Chevy. The Terrain undeniably serves a different, less common aesthetic taste—no look-alikes this time. This is the benefit of multiple brands—the Terrain’s styling is too polarizing for any company with just one offering in the segment. But are there enough people who prefer chunky to creamy in their crossover sheetmetal? Lackluster powertrain notwithstanding, GMC dealers are quickly selling every Terrain they can get—nearly 3,000 of them in October—so we seem to have our answer concerning the point of GMC.

[Michael Karesh owns and operates True Delta, a reliability and cost analysis survey site]

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